Getting the light right™ in real time with Caustic Professional and PowerVR OpenRL

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Most of you might know Imagination as a leading semiconductor IP company based in the UK. We are the champions of the TBDR (Tile-Based Deferred Rendering) concept, a unique way of rendering 3D graphics that today is ubiquitous with mobile and embedded GPU architectures.
You might also be familiar with our PowerVR graphics solutions that implement the TBDR architecture and are licensed by top silicon manufacturers such as Renesas Electronics, HiSilicon, Samsung LSI, Texas Instruments or MediaTek. Computing systems integrating our PowerVR GPUs have made their way into many of today’s iconic smartphones and tablets from Samsung, Sony, LG, ZTE, Huawei or Motorola. But if you go beyond the graphics side of the company, Imagination has actually been growing and developing new aspects of its business.

For example, we also have a product division named Caustic Professional that has been busy working on a ray tracing acceleration solution for digital media and content creation professionals. Caustic have recently launched the Series2 R2500 and R2100 PC cards as well as a software plug-in for Autodesk Maya called Caustic Visualizer.

Caustic Professional Series2 R2100 raytracing PC board

Caustic Series2 R2100 ray tracing PC board Caustic Professional Series2 R2500 raytracing PC board

Caustic Series2 R2500 ray tracing PC board

You can purchase any of these cards as well as a licenses the Caustic Visualizer plug-in for Autodesk Maya by accessing the dedicated Caustic online web store.

Caustic Series2 boards and Visualizer for Autodesk Maya

PowerVR OpenRL – at the heart of ray tracing

The  OpenRL™ implementation handles the runtime compilation of shader programs from the application, builds efficient acceleration structures automatically and maps ray tracing in the best way to the underlying hardware. It is a similar API to OpenGL (which is used for rasterization) that provides a framework for writing ray tracing applications which execute across heterogeneous compute platforms. OpenRL is uniquely designed to support a wide range of applications, including professional rendering packages, interactive games, and even non-graphical applications used for simulation and physical modelling.

Caustic Professional: Caustic Visualizer: Sunglasses

The feedback the R2500 and R2100 boards and the Visualizer have received has been fantastic. Journalists visiting our booths at last year’s Autodesk University or SIGGRAPH Asia and this year’s CES were blown away by the speed and quality these boards can deliver.

In the near future, Caustic are also planning a beta program for the Autodesk 3ds Max version of the Visualizer plug-in, as they are on a mission to target all digital content creation markets including film, video, games, transportation, education, consumer products, architecture, engineering and construction.

With Caustic Professional, real-time and photo-realism go together

Real-time ray tracing traditionally involved a power-hungry system of GPUs running an OpenCL-based application. But that proved to be inefficient so Caustic had a different idea: why not change the problem from a computational perspective to a data base one?

After concentrating all its efforts into answering that question, it finally revealed the first commercial products to deliver a real-time, low power ray tracing platform – the Series2 OpenRL PC boards – and backed the hardware up with the right software to use it to its full potential – the Caustic Visualizer plug-in.

Caustic Professional: Caustic Visualizer - Headphones_MayaUI_01

Here are just some of the headlines we’ve seen over the past few months:

It has received quite a lot of attention from industry experts too, being praised by veterans like John Carmack, founder and technical director of id Software (Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, Rage) who said this on his personal Twitter account:

 

We are currently busy organizing a press week here at our local headquarters in Kings Langley so expect a fresh series of reviews and articles on what these cards can really achieve from respected contributors like Develop 3D, 3D World or the CG Channel.

If you are interested in finding out more, we will also be bringing a workstation fully equipped with a Caustic PC board at MWC 2013 in Barcelona.
To stay in touch with the latest news and announcements on future ray tracing solutions, including developments on future PowerVR generations that will integrate these exciting technologies into their architecture, follow Caustic Professional (@CausticGraphics) and Imagination (@ImaginationTech) on Twitter and keep coming back to our blog.

Alex Voica

Alex Voica

Before deciding to pursue his dream of working in technology marketing, Alexandru held various engineering roles at leading semiconductor companies in Europe. His background also includes research in computer graphics and VR at the School of Advanced Studies Sant'Anna in Pisa. You can follow him on Twitter @alexvoica.

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